Rishi Pardal, managing director and CEO, United Breweries, believes that it’s important to have a routine as it gives a sense of normalcy. Pardal’s morning routine anchors him for his day.
Bengaluru-based Pardal (49) joined United Breweries in 2020 from Avery Dennison. Prior to this he has also worked with Marico, Unilever and Hindustan Unilever.
Pardal speaks with Lounge about the lessons he learnt from his mentor and how sampling local cuisines has helped him bond with colleagues in other geographies. Edited excerpts.
Who do you consider your mentor?
I have had many mentors during my lifetime and they have helped me navigate situations that seemed complex during those junctures in life. My earliest mentor was my super boss at Brooke Bond Lipton India, who convinced me to leave my comfort zone, including my hometown Bengaluru, for Mumbai. I gave up the assignment I was comfortable in to garner multiple exposures early on in my career so that I could accelerate my path to becoming a general manager.
One major change you worked on with your mentor's guidance?
My mentor always used to ask me what I brought to the party. Was I the risk-taker? Was I the catalyst? Was I the subject expert? Was I the person who brought the team together? This clarity was very important for me to define how to approach any situation and add value or find a solution.
Another change that I have implemented is how to have enabling conversations. It is important, especially for senior business leaders, to not shut down anyone and nudge our work colleagues to come up with solutions. Ask the right questions to your colleagues to help them arrive at a decision instead of pronouncing your verdict to them. This is a slow process but one with lasting results.
What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
A mentor must have your best interest at heart, offer perspective that you may not necessarily have and open doors for you. Mentoring is giving people the responsibility ahead of time and their readiness to accomplish tasks and trusting them that they will do the right thing without second-guessing or looking over their shoulder all the time. People grow when they feel they are trusted. It is also about taking time to have honest conversations with colleagues about their real concerns.
What's your morning routine like?
I am a pretty early riser and stick to a routine, which is non-negotiable for me. The first thing I do when I get up is go for a run, walk or hit the gym. I also take some time in the morning to plan my day before I reach work. This helps me schedule how I spend my time in office efficiently.
The weekends are exactly the opposite. I meet my friends or family over meals and also enjoy some downtime. I need some hours to myself to relax, listen to music and read. Only a crisis of herculean proportions can make me work on a weekend.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, my travel schedule was extreme, and I was taking transcontinental trips at the drop of a hat. The pandemic has taught me how to optimise travel and prioritise which meetings require physical presence and what can be done over virtual calls. It allows me to remain in balance.
What are some of the productivity principles you follow?
I strongly believe that we must focus on what’s important and hire the best people and give them the freedom to do the job. The discipline in my routine has helped me find some semblance of sanity in my life at junctures when you may feel like you’re not in control. My morning exercise routine helps me be not feel overwhelmed with things. If you don’t have a morning routine, you will most likely get absorbed by the problems life throws at you and lose the big picture.
Any book/ podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?
There are three books have had a lasting impact on me. Good to Great by Jim Collins, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. These books have taught me on how to effectively run the business and one’s personal life. The Prophet, especially, has lots of gems, which has helped nurture my relationship with my children, my partner and near and dear ones. These books have practical, implementable philosophies.
How do you unwind?
Trying out new kinds of food has really helped me bond with my diverse teams during my international stints. Having a local cuisine is a great ice-breaker. I remember this one colleague, who took me to a small deli, which served sticky soyabean. He told me how it used to be a treat for him growing up in China. In Mexico, my colleagues treated me to a plate of grasshoppers, while in Korea, I relished live octopus because they felt it was a special meal that celebrated the occasion. There are always great stories behind food, which helps expand our cultural horizons.
I also enjoy hiking. It gives me clarity and perspective, especially because you push yourselves physically and mentally to another level, reinforcing the belief that you can actually do anything if you possess grit and resolve. During the pandemic, when I was stuck in Hong Kong, I trekked a particularly difficult route that had beautiful, scenic views but had no mid-point exit. That taught me a lot about finishing what you start.